Mark Williams, physical safety expert and Chair for the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools discusses the newly released PASS Safety and Security Guidelines with Safe and Sound Schools.

The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) just released the 5th edition of its Safety and Security Guidelines for K-12 Schools. Who should read them and why?  

The Guidelines were originally introduced in response to schools in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting.  Schools were struggling to understand what they needed to do.  Specifically, their questions fit into a handful of categories:

  • How do we assess our current state of safety and security?
  • What should we do? What are other schools doing? Vetted best practices.
  • Where should we start?

While the original Guidelines were oriented around providing a roadmap for schools to follow to answer those questions, they have evolved to be a resource that is useful for other stakeholders in the safe schools environments, like architects who design schools, general contractors who build schools, emergency responders, and parents.  All these folks are involved in taking an all hazards approach to enhancing the safety of our schools.

Who endorses the 2020 guidelines?

We have many organizations that support, reference and endorse the PASS Guidelines and Checklist, including Safe and Sound Schools.  The PASS Guidelines are listed as the only non-governmental document on physical security within the Department of Homeland Security SchoolSafety.gov website.  PASS is also referenced in the National Fire Prevention Association’s NFPA 3000 ASHER standard as well as the Federal Report on School Safety and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Commission Report.  The State of Ohio in their “School Safety Report and Recommendations” recommended that all public K-12 schools in the state of Ohio should meet with PASS Tier 1 requirements.  Additionally, COPS (The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services) which is a component with the United States Department of Justice, published a list of the 10 Essential Actions to Improve School Safety.  PASS was included in that Top 10 list.

What’s new in this year’s guidance?

There is a lot of new material in the 5th Edition. We are very excited to finally release it. Some highlights include:

  • An expanded conversation on non-code compliant barricade devices
  • New technology around Zone Emergency Response Systems which dramatically reduce the time it takes to get emergency responders to the exact location on school campus or building
  • Guidance on Lockdown Drills – what should they be and what they shouldn’t be
  • Enhanced Visitor Management practices
  • Grounds assessment and use policies
  • Recommendations on the installation of audio/video call boxes in various layers of school security
  • Architectural elements like delineating hard corners in classrooms in order to have room occupants shelter in safe places during a lockdown
  • An enhanced Checklist Tool which enables schools to document both current state and serves as a planning document going forward.
  • A new section on Emerging Technologies. These are technologies we see evolving and being tested in the k12 environment.

We are really pleased with it and hope to see even more schools make use of the updated guide.

What is the biggest takeaway for schools? 

We believe the biggest takeaway for schools is that the Guidelines and Checklist tools are evolving in a very dynamic environment to reflect the current vetted best practices from around the country.  We have a cross functional Advisory Committee of experts that are out in our school environments every day and are dedicated to making sure our schools are as safe as possible.

How can people access the new PASS guidelines? And how do you see schools using this free resource from the experts at PASS?

The Guidelines and Checklist tools are available as a no cost download at https://passk12.org/guidelines-resources/.

Schools are finding this document easy to understand and a helpful tool in assessing their current environment and a planning tool for their future needs.  It also provides a platform and resource to assist schools to pursue grants that are available for school safety and security equipment and training as well as a document to help them establish effective and appropriate solutions for enhancing the safety and security of their environments.

We set out to provide free, clear, and unbiased guidance for school leaders and decision makers when we started the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools.  We are thrilled to see more and more schools taking advantage of the resource and grateful for partners like Safe and Sound Schools spreading the word.


Guest Author:

Mark Williams served for over 30 years in the Safety and Security Industry in a number of leadership roles. He also has 15 years of experience teaching life safety codes and sits on the NFPA 3000 ASHER (Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response) technical committee. Mark has been involved with Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) since 2014 and currently serves as its Board Chairman.

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